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Loophole in License Law Saves Gov.

Schwarzenegger lacks M1 designation, but he wasn't given a ticket because his motorcycle had a sidecar at the time of Sunday's crash.

January 10, 2006|Amanda Covarrubias and Jill Leovy | Times Staff Writers

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been riding his motorcycle without the proper license for years but was operating within the law Sunday, when he was in a crash, his spokeswoman said Monday.

The spokeswoman, Margita Thompson, said the governor does not hold an M1 endorsement on his driver's license, which is required for operating a motorcycle.

"He acknowledges he needs to get one," Thompson said.

But on Sunday, the governor was saved by a sidecar, Thompson said.

Schwarzenegger was riding his Harley-Davidson with his 12-year-old son, Patrick, in the sidecar when they were hit by a car pulling out of a driveway in the 2100 block of Mandeville Canyon Road in Brentwood. The presence of the sidecar made the bike a three-wheeled vehicle, which Schwarzenegger was entitled to drive with his regular Class C driver's license, Thompson said.

The governor was not cited in Sunday's accident. Law enforcement officials offered mixed assessments of his position, which was first reported by KFI-AM (640), citing different provisions of the California vehicle code.

One section of the code defines a motorcycle as "any motor vehicle

But a separate section on licenses says that only "two-wheeled motorcycles" are excluded from the class of vehicles for which a Class C license is inadequate. It goes on to say that the Class M1 license is required for operation of "two-wheeled motorcycles or a motor-driven cycle."

The section makes no reference to sidecars.

As for the governor, at an appearance Monday morning, he made light of the accident and his injury. The fat lip he was sporting wasn't a fashion statement, he said.

"It's not what normally happens in Hollywood when someone has a swollen lip," he said, explaining that he hadn't had collagen shots. Nope, those were stitches.

The left half of Schwarzenegger's upper lip was visibly puffy and raw when he spoke at a North Hollywood news conference about healthcare coverage for children. It was his first public appearance since the crash.

Mandeville Canyon Road, a winding street that runs from Sunset Boulevard up into the Santa Monica Mountains, is a favorite among recreational motorcyclists.

Schwarzenegger said he was going about 20 mph when a woman in a car backed out of a driveway and hit his Harley.

"She looked into my eyes and backed up anyway," Schwarzenegger said of the woman, whom police refused to identify. He added that she "felt guilty" about the accident.

"And she really felt guilty that she hit the governor," he said.

The governor said his doctor told him that he should not attend any public events or even speak for three days. "My wife said, 'Make it seven!' " he joked.

He said Maria Shriver disapproves of his fascination with speed and his love of skydiving, fast skiing and motorcycle riding. But while he acknowledged that he could have been much more seriously hurt, he seemed unrepentant.

"I was very lucky," he said. "It could have been far different. You never know ... not just on a motorcycle, but when you go skiing. I did all those things anyway before I was governor. I never stick to the rules.

"I've had so many injuries with my movies and so on, this doesn't stop me for a minute," he added.

Others took the accident as a warning.

Nina Cohen, president of the Mandeville Canyon Homeowners Assn., said the city should improve safety measures along the residential street, which she called "very unsafe."

"I hope some good will come out of this," Cohen said Monday. "We have been trying to make the canyon more safe for walkers, hikers and bicyclists."

Cohen said many residents fail to clear hedges lining the road, which restricts visibility along the canyon.

"Thank God he wasn't badly hurt or his child wasn't hurt," she said. "Maybe it will make people realize they need to slow down and heed rules and regulations about keeping their shrubbery cut back."

City law prohibits homeowners from allowing their shrubs to grow onto city property, which on Mandeville Canyon Road ranges from 18 feet to 25 feet on either side of the pavement, Cohen said.

But many homeowners on the street are in violation of the ordinance, as well as another that limits shrubbery from being taller than 42 inches in the frontyard of a home, she said.

Times staff writer John Spano contributed to this report.

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